Some Bullshit Memes About Height

One of my biggest pet peeves is when announcers, coaches, and journalists make up pure bullshit about player's height. I'll pick two examples. One is Kevin Love, who gets all kinds of shit because he's listed at 6'10" but is "really" 6'8", and JJ Barea. Barea is very short for an NBA player, and if you listen to the other team's broadcast of every Timberwolves game, I'd bet in about 78 of the 82 games, you will hear some variation of this: "Well, he's listed as 6 feet tall, but no way. He's more like five-eight!".

Today, I read this in a Q & A with Flip Saunders:

FS: Oh, the closest guy to that is J.J. But he’s 5-9. But that is something I think Turiaf will bring.

The away team broadcasters I get, but this is annoying because Flip is flat-out lying through his teeth here.

As it happens, I drive down from Seattle and catch the Timberwolves games in Portland quite often. And usually, I stay in the same hotel the Wolves do. Not on purpose; it just happens to be an awesome hotel. I usually arrive around 4-5 pm, and it's not uncommon to catch glimpses of players eating in the restaurant and what not. It is also not uncommon to see them going in and out of the elevators on the way to their bus. Last week, I caught a ride with Evan Turner when I was in town to see Philly play (and I had a brain fart and introduced him to my girlfriend as Hollis Thomopson, because we'd just been talking about Philly's rookies. He was really gracious about it, not even bothering to correct me, and smiling and thanking us for coming down to see the game).

ANYWAY. I've also been in an elevator with J.J. Barea. Stood right next to him. He was on the phone, so I didn't say hi, but I was literally close enough to do the thing where you could put a ruler on both of our heads to see who's taller. And I'm juuuuuust short of 6 feet tall. Yes, barefoot (I'll get to that in a second). Seriously, I am 5'11 3/4" tall. I've measured it precisely. You don't know how damn long I kept measuring as a teenager, hoping for that last little growth spurt to put me over 6 feet. Or maybe you do, if you are like me and you are oh-so-close to that magical-yet-totally-arbitrary dividing line.

And here's the thing: Barea is as tall as I am. If I stare parallel to the ground, I'm staring him right in the eyes. Maybe he's 6 feet tall, maybe not. But it's damn close. I do know that we'd both consider 5'9" folks to be "the short guys". So...yeah, the whole "damn he's small thing" is getting old. We get it, NBA players are tall, and JJ is not. But stop pretending that he's really the same size as Mugsy.

And sure, this was in shoes. We were both in shoes. Of course we were in shoes! Who the hell walks around barefoot in Portland between November and March!? Don't NBA players play basketball in shoes!? This brings me to my next point: we need to stop obsessing about barefoot combine heights.

At his draft combine, Kevin Love measured "only" 6'8 3/4" (barefoot). "Oh NOES", the internet cried, "he's been lying about his height! He's undersized!" Broadcasters cannot stop bringing it up. It is, next to the fact that he's white, one of the reasons he always wins the moronic "does the most with least" award from NBA GMs every year. And it is such horrendous bullshit.

There's two things going on here: 1) Everybody in the NBA plays in their ****ing shoes, and 2) Everybody in the NBA has "lied" about their height because almost every official roster lists the players' height in shoes. How many times do you hear folks saying Kevin Durant is 7 feet tall? Even though he's actually about 6'9"? How many actual 7-footers are in the NBA, without shoes? All that matters is your relative height.

If Love's not really 6'10" but 6'8.75" then this would only matter if he were the only player in the whole NBA whose official height is exaggerated.  If all the other 6'10" guys are listing their height "in shoes" as well than this means he's about the same size. If the 7 footers are "only" 6'10.5" then it means that he's about 2 inches smaller....just like he would be if he were 6'10" and they were 7'! I acknowledge that there will be some players whose hieght is listed exactly correctly...but they aren't the rule.

And these are just the guys I read about a lot; I'm sure there are plenty of other examples from fans of other teams. Am I the only one who gets upset at this kind of lazy reporting?

In the late '90s, when 5'9"-ish quarterback Doug Flutie finally got into the NFL after years of dominating Canadian football, Fox Sports used to run this graphic where the players were represented by these little cubes. Flutie's cube was somewhat hilariously about half the size of everyone else's.
Who cares? Seriously?

I mean, what matters is production, not height. A 6'5" power forward that produces is much better than a 6'11" power forward that doesn't. Now, production matters on the defensive end too, and maybe our metrics don't measure the defensive flaws of a 6'5" power forward all that well. But still, Chuck Barkley was awesome and I don't care at all how tall he is.
Height DOES matter. Most every player is listed at the height when he was in shoes when drafted. As a Mavs fan who fell for the JJ Barea is 5ft 8 thing it annoyed me until I saw him guard Chris Paul and realized THEY ARE HE SAME SIZE. His actual issue, what makes him seem shorter is that he has short arms.
"Maybe our metrics don't measure defensive flaws of a 6ft 5 power forward all that well" Actually that's you know half the game.. so its a big deal.
It is more about height plus wingspan. Monta Ellis is 6ft 3 but his arms are shorter than average so he plays smaller than 6ft3. Arm length is the great equalizer. Since JJ has short arms but is 5ft 11 he plays smaller than his height.
But yes it bothers me a ton. I joked with my buddies that every time Kevin Durant wins a playoff series he gets a half inch in height. However he does PLAY much taller because not only is he 6'10.25" with shoes but he does have a crazy 7'4" wingspan. That is literally the exact same measurements as Dwight Howard.
When I think of it that way I don't mind the picture they are trying to paint when they call him a 7 footer. But yes it does bother me.
One more thing on Love. He was measured 6'9.5" at the combine. And only a 6'11" wing span. And he is 6'7.5" without shoes. So yeah he is short and with short arms and not elite jumping ability yeah there are some things he has to over come.
For example Paul Millsap who IS 6ft7 with shoes, his standing reach is only a half inch shorter than Love. So love plays shorter than 6ft 10. So I don't have a huge problem with those announcer short cuts.
No, we only think that height matters because it is correlated with productivity (i.e., ADJ P48). But it is not a perfect correlation, and what it really important to winning basketball games is productivity, not height. Again, ask yourself, would you rather have a good short player or a bad tall player? After all, Gheorghe Muresan is not the best NBA player of all time.
A bad player is a bad player no matter the height. I would rather have Tim Duncan (age aside) than Chris Paul. Or Dirk Nowitzki than Deron Williams. Comparing a terrible tall player over a good shorter player is a pretty useless exercise. Yes I'd rather have Chris Paul over Chris Dudley. Congratulations? Generally taller longer teams are better defensive teams. Defense is half the battle. So given the choice of Duncan or Love (age appropriate) I'd take Duncan. However WP might actually take Love I don't know because on the site migration we lost stats for previous seasons.

I guess in the end its not about comparing PGs to PFs. But taller players at the same position.
Also I don't think its an insult to appreciate that Love is so productive while having only a half inch taller standing reach than Paul George. He is closer to Dwayne Wade in standing reach than Kevin Durant. I think that makes his productivity even more remarkable considering that it IS a disadvantage to be shorter as a PF/C in the NBA.
Well perhaps we just need a few new metrics.

Something like Defensive Area Displaced (D.A.D.) which would be calculated as an area of an ellipse where height is one axis and wingspan is the other axis. This isn't a very useful measure on offense (where standing reach is probably more appropriate), hence the specific defensive reference.

For example if JJ is 6' in shoes (or without, doesn't matter as long as it is consistent across NBA) and his wingspan is smaller at say 5'9" we can calculate the defensive area he displaces we can come up with a D.A.D. figure of Pi*(Height/2)*(Wingspan/2) = 27.08 square feet.

If we assume the average NBA Player is some ratio of height to wingspan (or just have exact wingspan measurements) and we know average height for a position, we can come up with relative statics.

For example, say the average PG is 6'2" with a 1:1 height/wingspan ratio. Average PG D.A.D. would equal 29.85 square feet making JJ roughly 10% smaller on average.

That seems to be a more accurate method of comparing his advantage or disadvantage from genetic related traits.
Even more annoying than insisting a guy isn't as tall as listed, is size creep where a guy gets taller in each and every article he's featured in. The Clips are considering Hedo Turkoglu and I've seen him start at 6'8" in articles about 10 days ago and work his way up to 6'10" this morning. No idea what his real height is but I know it's not 6'10", and I also know it doesn't matter. He's a really tall 3 who can play a little 4. Why writers feel the need to inflate height (or take it away), I'll never know.
The problem with saying "Love's production is remarkable considering that it is a disadvantage to be shorter" is that height, while important, is only one factor.

Why doesn't anyone say things like "It's remarkable that Tim Duncan is so good considering that he his vertical is so bad that he can't jump over a power cord" or "It's remarkable that Kevin Durant is so good considering that his upper-body strength is average at best".

The thing about Love is that he's enormously gifted. He's got insanely strong hands and arms. He's got a decent vertical, and he has great dexterity (apparently GMs think that hand-eye coordination is something you can teach, not a physical gift; this explains why guys like Mark Madsen, Darko Milicic, or the Collins twins got paid for so many years...someone thought they'd get it eventually).

As for his height...well, as I said, he's about average for a PF. But when an announcer says he is only 6'8", he's implying that this isn't true. It's just a lie. This kind of distortion of the truth annoys me.
Very funny and great article Patrick. I get very annoyed too and totally agree with you, especially with JJ, I grew up in Miami and I watched him play a lot and people have always said that he was short. However, even though these reporters and journalists might be lazy, just going off the consensus perception of a players physicality, I think sometimes they do it as an indirect compliment to the player. Constantly barking upon someone's limitations/disadvantage especially with height or weight does bring up the level of awe and admiration to a higher level. I don't think this is always the intention but a lot of times that's people's indirect message, they are saying that the players game or style of play transcends their size which can be a good thing. With JJ they want people to be amazed how well he drives and finishes around the rim, with Klove the insane amount of rebounds he gets. Just my opinion.
Oh and with players like Duncan and Durant, the media never has to pick at or bark their limitations/disadvantages to death because they are adored by everyone.
I am not disagreeing with being annoyed with selectively removing or adding inches to a guy's height by analysts and announcers. That is just lazy.
But honestly I am amazed about one thing in KLove's game. He has got to be the only guy who averages both 3.5 Oreb's a game AND takes 6.5 3 pointers. He is at many possessions spreading the floor at the 3pt line AND getting a high percentage of ORebs. I mean standing out at the 3pt line does make it harder to get ORebs yet he is still great at it.
that is just #want
@joshtlewis, depending on how old an article is and who wrote it, Paul George is anywhere from 6'6" to 9'2". The truth is that he was 6'8.75" at the combine (in shoes, the no-shoes measurement is ridiculously misleading), and grew a reported 2 inches between rookie and sophomore year.

For some guys, not all, if they are drafted at 19 or 20 they can still have another growth spurt.
Patrick - I feel you, I always list my height as 5'11and 3/4" because I entered high school at 5'11 and 1/2". I kept thinking I would of course break 6' but it never happened. Of course, I also went from one of the tallest 5 kids in my class to average and from a fast sprinter to average... I guess 8th grade was my glory year!
As someone who is not from the USA, it always bugged me when heights were measured in shoes. FIBA provides barefoot measurements (in centimetres) just like any physical examination of anyone for anything would record things like height and weight without shoes or lots of clothes. It makes sense because it levels the playing field and you don't have people getting measured in tall shoes to inflate their heights (and therefore their "value" to prospective teams).

Given that the NBA was the only league that did it in shoes, it was surprising when NBA players started playing Olympics and World Champs and we could see that their heights were "wrong" (the first confirmation we got that Sir Charles was 6'4"). As I recall though, there was some muscle-flexing by the NBA which began to list NBA players (including those not from USA) as their NBA-listed heights, and not their heights from previous FIBA tournaments, which throws the whole thing out.

In Australia last century we had a phenomenon termed "Pacific Shrink" for when Australian basketball teams recruited US "imports" to come and play, but when they arrived it seemed like they lost a couple of inches of height somewhere flying over the Pacific Ocean because the 6'7" power forward was only 6'5". It was problematic but it does spell out why players would inflate their height (as well as trying to hit those arbitrary milestones of 6 and 7 foot) - lying about it gets them paid/selected. As we know, there is a bias with height in drafting players.
I wonder to teams keep up to date records of players height, weight, wingspan, etc. Young players do tend to grow and improve so just wondering.
I obviously agree with the main point, which is that players should not be judged based on hight or any measure, but on their production. Nevertheless, as Rad said, I don't know of any other country in the world but USA where people are measured with shoes. Of course players play with shoes, but they can go and be measured with any kind of shoe, even some excessively high ones. Only if you measure them without shoes you'll be sure they are at the same level. Furthermore in the past even in USA players were measured without shoes. We always read on the web that Chamberlain was playing with midgets, because Russell was just 6-9, then we see the old Russell (probably shorter than his young self) being arguably taller than Howard. Or we see pictures of "6-11" Howard or "7" Olajuwon close to 7-2 Kareem and there is half head difference. I was a little disappointed when as a teenager I saw Magic in Milan, I expected him to be quite taller than me but he looked just 6-7 as me (maybe 6-8, definitely not 6-9). Still, he played like a god (and was so much taller than other guards, which was one of the things that made him great). By the way, I think the most important measure for a player is standing reach, I find it more interesting than wingspan (players with same wingspan and height may have quite different reach, based on position and width of shoulders)
I have to disagree with Rad_E_Cool and francesco. Who cares what their height actually is? All that matters is their playing height. It is like the NFL combine where people compete in a track meet that has nothing to do with them running in pads as they would in a game. All I care about are metrics which describe playing conditions and those don't really correspond to performance anyway.
With the combine measuring with and without shoes now, a lot of that guessing game is going away. The days of Kobe being listed at 6'7 as a rookie and then 6'6 after that in order to be closer to Michael are coming to an end.
Andrew Sutton - yeah, just the other day say a feature on the Greek Freak, who's grown more than an inch since the combine (he was measured at 6'9" there and is still listed as 6'9" on the Bucks website) and who may end up 7 feet tall by the time he stops.
always loved this stuff of lying about heights in the NBA! In the 90s a lot of people said Iverson was much smaller than his listed 6 feet which kinda gave us all hope to become good ballers despite being much smaller than the average player! Wasn't Drummond supposed to grow even more? I read something like that a few years ago when he was in high school and pictured what an unstoppable beast he would be with 7 feet or more. still he's "pretty good" for a short 6-10 center...
@francesco, standing reach is more appropriatw for big men, but wingspan is crucial for guards. It allows them to cover a wider zone and sit back on ballhandlers to prevent the drive while still being able to recover and challenge a jumper. Standing reach isn't the same.
@xavier you're right, but I played 4-5, so I am usually interested in big men. For example, I'd like to know Pau Gasol's reach, he seems almost to dunk on tiptoes...
I hate it when folks say Love can't jump. He put up 35 inch vertical at the combine and he did that weighing over 250. He has perfectly fine jumping ability for a PF. Who knows what he can jump now after dropping 20 pounds and maturing further.
My bigger problem with lying about player height is at the college level. You can’t watch a game or a televised discussion of college basketball without hosts snickering about some guard “listed at 6’1”” when (apparently) everybody courtside knows he’s really 5’ 10” or 5’11”. I can see how this started. If no one was checking, and/or if there’s no penalty for listing “erroneous” heights, it benefits the school/team/player to exaggerate. Doing so provides misinformation to naive opponents, possibly fooling em into misassigning guarding matchups. Plus, exaggerating height could get a player more attention from NBA scouts -- who might become sufficiently impressed by the player’s in-game accomplishments that, by the time the scout discovered the 2 inch discrepancy, he already liked the player enough draft em. Lying about height would never provide a giant edge, but it could create an advantage at the margin. That’s why it’s become commonplace (if not de rigueur) in the ncaa.
Of course, a race to the bottom occurred. Now, every team lies and the assumption is that each player’s height is ~ 2 inches less than his listed height. Even though I have no huge qualms with folks trying to game the system, lying about height causes several problems and it should be stopped. First, it sends a message that dishonesty is ok. Everyone just laughs it off. This is a bad message for kids. Second, it punishes a player with enough integrity to tell the truth. This is perverse. Third, it discourages some kids from investing the effort necessary to play ncaa basketball. If true heights were published/ broadcast, teens would see that a lot of 5’10” guys make it into college basketball, even a few on the top leagues and the top teams. Yes, it’s unusual to play at 5’10, but there are few guys each year. Quick kids who are just 5’9” at age 16 have a chance (to play in college) if they work hard each day & develop the skills to shoot, dribble, and pass.
I'm not saying this ^ is a monster problem that's ruining the sport, but it's a negative & it would be advisable and beneficial to police it.
I met Shawn Bradley and I can honestly say that standing right next to him at 6'6", I have absolutely no idea how tall he was. Tall.
I think it's pretty clear that Durant is taller than what he originally measured at, whether he grew or it was just a bad measurement. When you just compare him on the court to other players who measured out at 6'10 to 7' in shoes at the combine, he's clearly taller than the former but shorter than the latter. Just among his teammates, compare him to Collison (6'10 in shoes) to Adams (7'0 in shoes). I'd say Durant's pretty clearly in between those two, actually seems a little closer to Adams's height than Collison's.
By the way, people height is not fixed and varies a lot during the day. When I was 20 (now I stopped measuring myself) I used to be 201 cm (6'7) in the morning and 199 cm (6'6) in the evening . I heard that Sabonis was 222 (almost 7'4) in the morning and 218 (7'2) in the evening. If you add to that the shoes, some rounding up and some lie, you can get almost a 4 inches difference in "listed height" between two players with the same height at the same time of the day

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